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Penn State Football: Obstacles Easier As Program Moves Forward This Spring

by on April 02, 2015 4:00 PM

Last year there were a lot of things that were going through Christian Hackenberg's head before the ball was ever snapped.

Are my teammates in the right place? What is the defense doing? Does the offensive line see the same things that i do? Should i check out of the play? 

The list goes on and on. And it doesn't even include all of the obstacles he had to deal with after the snap. Chief among them, not getting thrown on his head for yet another sack.

But this year, at least in theory, Hackenberg has less to worry about. Not that he won't still check on his teammates. That's still part of the job, but everyone is closer to being on the same page. A year of experience has made everyone more comfortable and so in turn the success rate for each play is on the rise.

“I think my mind was in a lot of places last year,” Hackenberg said earlier this week. “I kind of lost the ability to sort of focus on myself when I need to in a sense that making sure I’m doing my job, and a lot of these guys have done a great job of holding me to that standard this offseason, this spring.”

That's a big thing for Hackenberg to admit. Not that he ever claimed to be perfect in the first place, but the realization that everything could have gone better last season. More importantly, is seeing that things are going better this year. The obstacles on each play are less severe. Penn State has made it past the growing pains.

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“When you get hit that much, you start falling into bad habits, you start drifting, your foot work’s not as clean, falling off throws, things like that,” coach James Franklin said. “Last year, really, he was so focused on everybody else and trying to help them that it stunted his development in some ways.”

From a statistical standpoint Hackenberg had one of the better passing seasons in Penn State history. But the sacks and the untimely miscues by the entire offense made that something of an irrelevant point. This season's goals suddenly seem more achievable as the mood around the program shifts toward a reasonable optimism. 

Penn State will be better this year for a lot of reasons. Undoubtedly, the issues surrounding the team's overall depth and talent are still very real and will not evaporate overnight.

But if Hackenberg has confidence that his teammates know their roles and he can focus on his, even if the Nittany Lions aren't suddenly in the title hunt this year, that's still a step in the right direction.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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